/ Money

Fee-charging cash machines – do you mind paying?

Cash machine

Personally, I don’t like the thought of being charged to withdraw my money from a cash machine. But what happens if you have little or no choice? Is a fee ever a price worth paying for convenience?

Cash machines are currently the most popular method of cash withdrawal in the UK – in 2011 people used ATMs a record 2.87 billion times, withdrawing £19bn in the process.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have always lived in places where there’s access to free-to-use cash machines, but that’s obviously not the case for everyone.

I’m well aware that people who live in the most remote parts of the country can be left with little or no choice but to pay a fee at ATMs. This is often where banks have closed branches and private cash machine operators have decided it’s not viable to maintain a free-to-use one. However, our snapshot survey of cash machines has found that there are even so-called ‘cash machine deserts’ in densely-populated residential areas in London.

Cash machine charges in motorway service stations

Then there are the motorway stations. According to Link (which co-ordinates the ATM network) there are 328 fee-charging cash machines in British motorway service stations, compared to only 18 free-to-use ones. That means that just six of the 98 service stations in England, Scotland and Wales have a free-to-use ATM in their main building.

However, there are less obvious ways to avoid paying a fee. Just under a quarter of the service stations with fee-charging machines in their main building have petrol stations with free-to-use ATMs on the same site. And some also have shops offering cashback.

The cost of convenience when it comes to cash

When we asked Which? members about ATMs, almost all said they resented being charged to withdraw money. Three quarters refuse to use fee-charging cash machines on principle, while nine in ten would rather wait or walk further to find a free cash machine.

While I’ll do almost anything I can to avoid paying a fee to access my money, many people can’t or don’t want to walk an extra five or ten minutes more. And for those withdrawing small amounts of money, a charge of £1.73 (the current average) can make up a significant percentage of a transaction. Plus, this all adds up over time.

That’s why we think banks and private cash machine operators need to keep working together to give people more chance to access their cash for free, and ensure they’re not trapped in areas where the only option is to pay.

Do you use fee-charging cash machines, or do you do everything you can not to pay?

What do you think about fee-charging cash machines?

I resent paying a fee (90%, 622 Votes)

It depends on how much the charge is (8%, 54 Votes)

I'm happy to pay a fee to withdraw my cash (2%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 695

Loading ... Loading ...

I would not use a machine that charges unless I was desperate, and that has not happened yet.

I live 0.7 mile from Tesco which has three free machines and about 1.5 miles from NatWest and HSBC machines. It’s more of a challenge when away from home, but if necessary I conserve cash and use cards. When on holiday, I take a cheque book too.


I don’t see why anyone needs to pay a fee to withdraw cash. If you’ve run out of cash and there are no fee-free cash machines nearby, simply pay with a card instead. In 99% of cases, there will be no charge to the consumer, only a fee absorbed by the retailer.


If my bank operated the machine, I would not expect a fee. If I withdraw cash from someone else’s machine then a fee is reasonable – providing and servicing the machine costs money so why should the user not pay something towards the cost?
Having said that, I don’t use cash machines – I withdraw sufficient from my bank, paying generally by credit or debit card or cheque.


I rarely ever use cash machines. I find it more convenient to get cash back at supermarkets or M&S. I have been told that banks charge shops for counting the cash they pay in so many shops are more than happy to give customers cash back. It would appear that it saves them money. However, I have relatives who used to work for a bank and they pointed out that machines have to be serviced and that costs money.


Here is link to the Link system of free ATMs:


I honestly don’t have a problem with paying a fee to use a cash machine when they are offering extra convenience. The machines are run by companies and placed for convenience where banks have failed to step in. Banks are never going to be able to provide the saturation that these machines provide and the companies that run them don’t make money from them in any other way so to get the convenience you have to pay for the privilege. Banks make their money off you in other ways so can afford to offer you a free way to get your cash.
I understand that there is a problem when certain areas are completely devoid of bank cash machines, but in all other situations I am perfectly happy to pay for the chance to get cash in a situation where otherwise I might not have been able to.
As for the need for cash, sometimes it is essential. A family member recently bought something for me and I had to repay them with cash. I was happy to pay the fee at the motorway service station on the way to see them because I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop at a bank and it was better than not being able to repay their favour for several days.


Good points Angus. Though I regularly stop at motorway services I avoid eating there. I set off later than planned on a long drive after Christmas and was very relieved to be able to buy a meal, even though the price was high. I might be glad of a cash machine in a motorway services area one day, even if I have to pay to use it.

Perhaps the answer is for more retailers to offer ‘cash back’ services in areas without free ATMs.


No fees should be charged.
The banks have ‘groomed’ us all like a drug pusher with ‘free’ access to our own cash.
Now the banks demand payment for a service?
Banking is not a free market, we consumers have no real choice.